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Middle East

Syria’s rebel stronghold Idlib bombarded by government planes

media Firefighters respond at the destroyed building of Nabd Al-Hayat hospital that was hit by an air strike in Hass, Idlib province, 6 May 2019 ARAB24/Reuters TV via REUTERS

Syrian activists say that government airstrikes have killed at least 14 people in the rebel stronghold northwestern city of Idlib by midday Wednesday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

White Helmets civil defence volunteers said they have struggled to help civilian casualties since the bombing started before dawn, adding that they have counted 15 people killed in the villages of Baraa, Serja, and Habeet.

These attacks, carried out with the help of Russian forces, are the latest since the Syrian government scaled up their offensive on the rebels. The UN said its vital humanitarian operations are at risk for the three million living in Idlib and other vulnerable people in the region.

Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari, said on Tuesday Damascus “will spare no effort” to free the residents from the rebel militia, reiterating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's call for Idlib to return to regime control.

UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs head Ursula Mueller told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that some 270,000 people had been displaced by the violence in Idlib since April.  

She said the attacks have affected civilian services within the city, as 22 hospitals and clinics have had to close down after being hit by artillery during this fresh surge in fighting.

According to SOHR, more than 270 people had been killed since the government attacks began at the end of April.

The Idlib region and the surrounding areas, including Hama and Lattaquia are held by Hayat Tahrir al-Cham, a former branch of al-Qaeda.

France said Tuesday that it had an “indication” that a chemical attack had been carried out in the Idlib area, but was looking in to verifying this assertion.

A number of chemical attacks have been carried out by the Assad regime, including the latest one on 19 May in the area, according to the US.

International inspectors say that the government has used chemical attacks since 2011, while Syria continues to deny the charges.

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